FAQs and Cover Letters

How long should my résumé be?
Unless you have been in the workforce for many years (20 years or more), your résumé should be only one page. If you are having trouble fitting it all on one page, try a smaller font for less important subheadings. You can also delete jobs that are less relevant to the position.

If you do have more than one page, make sure you fill each page. If you have only a couple lines on the last page, consider what you can cut out to make it all fit on the previous page.

Note that some professions expect longer résumés, such as academic résumés for professors. Check with others in your field if you are unsure how long your résumé should be.


Do I need to include every job?
No, you can leave off jobs that are not relevant to the position you are seeking. Keep in mind that even unrelated jobs probably taught you skills that are necessary for your new position, however. For example, being a cashier may have taught you the customer service skills you’ll need to be a sales manager for a large company.


Do I need to have an objective statement?
Objective statements are still common, but not necessary on the modern résumé. If you think it will strengthen your application, include it. Read more about objective statements.


What if I haven’t had much work experience?
One solution is to also include unpaid positions. For example, were you a leader of a student organization, fraternity or sorority? If the experience added to your skills, include it.

If you want to focus on your skills, you can also create a functional résumé rather than the traditional chronological résumé. Read more about functional résumés here.


What if I’m switching careers or just starting my career?
If your new career path is very different from your previous job experiences, you will want to focus on your skills, not your job titles. You could use a functional résumé, or just make sure to mention the relevant skills you learned in each job. Skills like teamwork, analytical skills and time management are relevant to every career field.

Completing an internship in your new career field will also enhance your résumé.


What will make my résumé go in the trash?
If you have obvious typos or misspellings, your résumé will probably not get far, even if the job does not include writing. Employers want to see that you are careful, conscientious and detail-oriented. Read more about proofreading.

Messy, hard-to-read résumés also often wind up in the recycling bin. Employers receive hundreds of résumés and don’t have time to read yours carefully to figure out what you’re saying. Make your résumé clear with big headings and a neatly organized format. Learn More Indiana’s tips on organizing will help your résumé shine.

Employers also don’t want to waste time with job candidates that don’t have the required education or skills. Unless you believe you have had equivalent experience that you can explain in a cover letter, don’t bother to apply for a job if you do not meet the stated qualifications.


Do I need a cover letter?
Read the job description first. Some employers state that a cover letter is required while others specifically do not want one. If cover letters are not mentioned, it is a good idea to provide one so the employer sees that you are serious about the job.


What is a cover letter?
A cover letter introduces you and tells the employer why you are a great fit for the job. It is a chance to talk about things that don’t appear on your résumé.

Although each cover letter will look different, a general format includes an introductory paragraph, one to three paragraphs about you and a closing paragraph that restates your interest in the job. The introductory paragraph should introduce the skills and/or experiences you will talk about in the rest of the letter. You should close the letter by stating when you will follow up with the employer.


What should I include in my cover letter?
You should give information that is not found in your résumé but is pertinent to the job. For example, you may explain how you earned a promotion, what types of projects you have completed with a certain kind of software or how you have developed your management skills.

If something is obviously lacking from your résumé, the cover letter is the place to explain why you think you are qualified for the job anyway. Like the résumé, the cover letter should be tailored for each specific job. Try to use the exact language in the job description, such as “detail-oriented” or “proficient with Microsoft Office suite.”


What should not be included in my cover letter?
Don’t include anything that can be found on your résumé. If you list your awards on the résumé, don’t repeat the list in your cover letter. You can, however, explain a specific award and how the skills you developed to obtain the award match the skills needed for the job.


To whom should I address my cover letter?
If it is not clear from the job application, you can call the company and ask. They will value your initiative! Sometimes you may have to address it to “Whom It May Concern” or another generic heading.

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